Change a future...
Christmas 2006 saw John and Elaine Cogavin face an unexpected proposition when their sons suggested that rather than the usual Christmas presents the money go towards a project to help others.
After reaching out to their Malawian friends Prosperous and Lucy they were advised that lives – particularly those of the very poor – can be changed by investing in education.
However, making this happen was not going to be a simple task.
An idea took root, would it be possible to provide the necessary support and funding to allow a child to access a top private primary school education in their hometown of Zomba, Malawi?
After reviewing the costs, risks, and opportunities we discovered that not only was it possible to support one child but that we could support 5 children, and beginning in January 2007, this is what we did.
The early years of Chifundo saw 5 new children enter private primary schools each year. These children come from the poorest villages in Zomba, probably some of the poorest in the world.
A Team in Zomba also formed a "Trust" and developed a support system for the children which provided not just funding for school fees, but also a range of other supports - including nutritional, emotional, and social – which would allow our students to thrive.
Suddenly, it became very apparent just how education given with love can bring about real change.
Back home the Chifundo Foundation realised the importance of developing a sustainable model that would ensure not only that each child achieves their full potential but also ensure that we could provide this support for more children in the future.
In 2010 the Trust in Zomba, growing in confidence and belief, asked if it would be possible to consider extending the programme to secondary education.
Our first reaction was that it probably would not be possible – these children do not have access to libraries or computers, many are coming from homes with no electricity or running water. All those things that are so vital to success at secondary level were not accessible to these children.
How could we help them? What could we do?
One possible solution soon emerged. Why not build a Chifundo Resource Centre that could meet all these needs? But, where would the money come from?
Your response was, once again, so positive. The Trust in Zomba, supported by the local village chiefs and Department of Environment, sourced a 3-acre piece of land for such a facility. The site was purchased in May 2012 and the first phase of construction got underway in June 2013.
You, our donors, contributed so generously to the purchase of this land, the building of a Learning Centre, a Community Centre, Skills Workshops, Sports Grounds and a small but significant Research Farm. Opened in 2015 the ‘Chifundo Resource Centre’ is an oasis of learning for our student community and home for our visiting volunteer teachers.
Our Summer School has proven to be one of the most significant initiatives of the past 15 years. Since it began in 2016 a total of 25 volunteers, led by Peter, Pete and Stephen, have visited Zomba. Testament to the collegiate nature of their work, during Covid they successfully ran virtual Summer Schools each year.
These Summer Schools together with regular skills workshops run by the Trust, using local craftsmen have helped our Campus to become an inspiring and supportive learning environment for our 75 students.
It has also helped in no small way to have our first 2 students enter University. Davie and Eric have proved to be excellent role models and mentors for the younger students. We are confident that at least 2, maybe 3, of the class of 2021 will be joining them early next year!
Stefano describes life in Zomba
What We Do
The Chifundo Foundation is dedicated to the education of some of the most underprivileged children in the villages of Zomba, Malawi.
Originally focused on nursery/primary education, the Foundation is now committed to the continuous education of these children to secondary and vocational levels and beyond. Education is core to progress in Malawi as in all developing countries.
Public education is universally free but poorly resourced. Because of the lack of facilities and overcrowded classrooms, the weaker members of the community do not enter and could not survive the environment.
Chifundo’s success is through providing a total support programme for the selected children to guarantee each child’s progress to realizing their full human potential. This involves providing books, uniforms, shoes, and transport where necessary. The children are also provided with the nutritional, social, and emotional support if necessary.
We have built our Chifundo Resource Centre to support the education and development of the children participating in our programme. It is centrally located proximate to the homes and schools of the Chifundo children.
Thanks to your support our Chifundo Resource Centre was ready to welcome its pioneering team of volunteers in summer 2016. They put together the first summer school providing invaluable classes in English language, music, art and sports.
They also oversaw the official opening of the centre and its rebrand as the Chifundo Campus!
The Chifundo Campus offers a range of amenities to support Chifundo’s vision. It has become a safe haven for the children to congregate, receive additional tuition, learn skills through workshops and hands-on activity including farming and craftwork. Additionally, it offers a centralized location for the children to study, play and socialize together – an opportunity they would not otherwise have.
The Chifundo Campus is home to a growing range of educational resources including a library, computer room, music room and other learning facilities.
Eric discusses the impact of Chifundo
Education is key to progress in Malawi. While public education is free, it is very poorly resourced and class sizes can be very large. Most children do not receive any education, and many of those that do, lose out due to the deficiencies of the public system.
Malawi has given Chifundo the opportunity to educate some of the poorest children in the world to develop to their full potential and grow in appreciation of their wonderful natural resources.
Chifundo’s broad vision is to influence the future of Malawi through the development of new leaders, to help extend the life expectancy and quality of life of the children, and to develop a learning environment that will support the Chifundo children in all aspects of their educational development in growing to achieve their full potential.
It is important to recognize that some children will reach their potential outside of the traditional classroom environment. Chifundo has partnered with local tradesmen & women to provide workshops throughout the year. These workshops give the children a hands-on learning experience in different trades, most notably carpentry & tailoring. This is one of the ways we aim to ensure all children reach their potential.